The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann (1974)
Directed by Radley Metzger (as Henry Paris)
Starring Barbara Bourbon, Eric Edwards, Georgina Spelvin
Release Date: December 26, 1974
A wealthy businessman enlists the help of a private investigator to keep an eye on his sexually-adventurous wife. Taking the job, and with a film camera strapped to his head, he documents Pamela’s cartoonish and increasingly debauched encounters. He witnesses everything from Pamela deep-throating in the park to seducing a “family values” politician and even succumbing to an attack by gun-wielding thugs. The Private Dick’s work takes a personal turn when he finds himself becoming fascinated by the sexual charms of Mrs. Mann.
On paper, THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN might sound similar to other hardcore features of the time. But, being a Radley Metzger film, there is absolutely nothing ordinary to be found here! PAMELA MANN reigns supreme as one of the genre’s crowning achievements and the recent DVD release certainly pays homage to that fact.
A highly sensual comedy of manners and of the inconsistency of social morays – PAMELA MANN stands well above its competitors with innovative and involving storytelling, cast of top-notch actors and stunning camera work. While expertly made, the film never takes itself too seriously – toying with the conventions of the genre and all the while poking fun at the differences between the protagonist’s public face and private peccadilloes.
As Gerard Damiano’s DEEP THROAT took the world by storm, the public and mainstream press began to take a second look at hardcore pornography. Because of this, filmmakers found themselves not only with a lot more opportunity and latitude, but also called upon to justify the social relevance of their work. Radley Metzger (under his hardcore pseudonym Henry Paris) both explores and lampoons this minefield by directing his actors to play their roles with a wink and a nod, and peppers the film with a number of running gags which hilariously fly in the face of bourgeois morality.
One such gag, and probably the most famous, features an earnest woman with a classic seventies women’s lib hairdo approaching Pamela before, after and sometimes during her erotic encounters to ask our heroine a series of increasingly convoluted questions about social issues of the day. When her motivation is finally questioned at the end of the film, she simply replies: “I’m just here to give the film socially-redeeming value” Classic stuff.
Metzger has assembled a great cast of erotic performers, led by the stunningly beautiful Barbara Bourbon. Bourbon made only a trickle of hardcore films which I’ve always thought was a shame. Not only is Ms. Bourbon a classic and statuesque beauty, her performances sparkle with awareness and verve. She never becomes a mannequin like so many other women in adult films of the era or hence. Eric Edwards is our intrepid private detective who is quite up to the task of delivering the ironic and comedic dialogue with just a hint of knowing sarcasm. Edwards is a master of this kind of material.
The stand out performance of the film is undoubtedly given by Georgina Spelvin as the amusingly-named Klute, a prostitute of Pamela’s acquaintance. Her enthusiasm and sheer comedic talent makes it quite easy to understand why she is considered a legend of erotic cinema. There’s an exuberance there that makes Spelvin a joy to watch.
The sexual heat is intense but still wonderfully playful. Filmed during the freewheeling period between the pill, the “Sexual Revolution” and the sexually antiseptic 1980s, Metzger’s film captures a period sensibility that will probably never be seen again. All is not rosy in the film’s narrative, however.
One scene remains powerfully disturbing, even to this viewer’s jaded 21st-century eyes. As we near the halfway mark, we are asked to consider if perhaps Pamela’s wanton ways might not be completely without consequence. While cruising her usual sexual pick-up-point in the park she is accosted by two attackers (Jamie Gillis and Darby Lloyd Raines.) What follows is a dark, gritty and quite unexpected.
The film wraps up with a hilarious and unexpected twist worthy of Hitchcock (if Hitchcock made politically-sly hardcore sex comedies, that is.) The staggering performances, brilliant direction and camera work, witty repartee and numerous laugh-out-loud moments make THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN an unmissable sexual spectacle.
DVD Review: Oh my goodness! Where do I begin to describe the jaw-dropping paradise that is THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN on DVD? The legendary Distribix, Inc. has performed a miracle, and not only do we finally get to see this terrific film uncut, but in a beautiful HD transfer, delicious audio cleanup, more extras than you can shake a stick at and even the rarely-seen, hilariously political “soft cut” of the film!
From the moment you open the DVD case, you’ll notice a difference from the every day: a beautifully constructed, insightful and fascinating 44-page booklet of essays on the history of the film, its director, stars and the world of adult cinema in the 1970s. As tempted as I am to share a few of the intriguing tidbits to be found within its glossy covers, I save that pleasure for you to explore on your own.
Perhaps the most surprising extra on this handsome DVD set is the infamous “soft cut” of PAMELA MANN. Unlike so many other adult films that received the softcore treatment, Radley Metzger added even more of his trademark wit and biting satire. Rather than simply trimming out the hardcore shots, we are treated to Barbara Bourbon’s lovely face superimposed over the intertwined bodies giving an ongoing, hilariously adroit and topical political commentary. There really aren’t words to describe the brilliance of this technique, one must really experience it! Don’t worry, you won’t miss the sex, you’ll be too busy holding your sides as they ache with laughter at not just the content, but the genius approach the soft cut takes to the material.
The extras don’t stop there, my friends! We are also treated to two recent and extensive interviews with film stars Eric Edwards and Georgina Spelvin.
Eric Edwards, looking as vibrant and handsome as ever as the interview takes him through and beyond his work with Radley Metzger and explores his decades-long career in adult cinema in depth. Edwards comes across as an open and friendly man who is genuinely honored to be remembered and loved by so many people all these years later. There’s not a trace of melancholy here. This is a delightful conversation that will pull you in as if you were present in the room.
The second interview is with the feisty Georgina Spelvin. At 75-years-old she has lost none of her charm, powers of erudite observation or sense of humor at the unconventional path her life and career has taken her on. At nearly 40 minutes, the interview takes Georgina back to being a fresh-off-the-bus dancer in New York City, to her accidental introduction to “fuck films” and even into her flirtation with “legit” cinema. Georgina Spelvin is as captivating as ever. She is a true film treasure, and Distribpix has done her legacy justice with this interview that will certainly put a smile on the viewer’s face.
Oh, but that’s not all from the fabulous folks at Distribpix! One of the most exciting features is a full-length commentary track by director Radley Metzger himself! I got the impression while listening that Metzger is quite surprised by the adoration people still show for his work all these years later. The commentary track is resplendent with bon mots and highly-enjoyable anecdotes that I won’t spoil for you here.
Featurettes include a look at the locations featured in PAMELA MANN, stills and promotional materials, lost scenes and more than I could possibly cover in this space. Distribpix’s obvious love of the material and dedication to bringing their fans and customers the very best in vintage erotica are quite evident here! In short, this is an essential purchase for any fan of classic NYC adult cinema.
This amazing, two-disc special edition of THE PRIVATE AFTERNOONS OF PAMELA MANN can be purchased at the Distribpix/Video-X-Pix website: www.distribpix.com.